Uncer­tainty for golden quar­ter

Cham­ber says some busi­nesses hurting, gov­ern­ment re­ports tax rev­enues down

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL JOEL-HANSEN

Busi­nesses in the Friendly City are cau­tiously op­ti­mistic head­ing into the hol­i­day sea­son, ac­cord­ing to Moose Jaw and District Cham­ber of Com­merce CEO Rob Clark.

Clark said the busi­ness cli­mate is not cur­rently a uni­form one.

“Walk­ing around and talk­ing to busi­nesses, I get some mixed re­views. Some are do­ing really well and some are not do­ing as well as ex­pected,” he said.

Some busi­nesses in the city have been hurt by the fact that the area is not ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a typ­i­cal win­ter. The sec­tors that have been ef­fected by the warmer than usual con­di­tions range from stores that sell win­ter cloth­ing to snow mo­bile busi­nesses and hard­ware stores.

“A lot of sec­tors are suf­fer­ing just be­cause of our cli­mate at the mo­ment,” he said. “Any­thing hav­ing to do with cold weather and snow are go­ing to be a lit­tle soft at the mo­ment.”

Busi­nesses de­pen­dent on the cold weather are not the only in­sti­tu­tions feel­ing a mon­e­tary pinch.

The Gov­ern­ment of Saskatchewan re­leased its mid-year fi­nan­cial re­port this week.

The re­port showed the prov­ince’s bud­get deficit sit­ting at $679 mil­lion, which is $6 mil­lion lower than ex­pected at the start of the year. Rev­enues over­all are down by $53 mil­lion from where they were ex­pected to be. Rev­enues col­lected from per­sonal in­come taxes are down by $110 mil­lion, while in­come taxes col­lected from cor­po­ra­tions are down by $39 mil­lion, and rev­enues from sales taxes are $55 mil­lion less than ex­pected. Tax rev­enues col­lected from fuel taxes were up by $20 mil­lion. Rev­enues from non-re­new­able re­sources were down by $24 mil­lion.

Clark said one of the big­gest changes af­fect­ing busi­ness in the city in a neg­a­tive way is the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to raise and ex­pand the pro­vin­cial sales tax (PST).

“That’s prob­a­bly the big­gest contributor,” he said.

“I don’t think they really looked at it se­ri­ously enough when they con­sulted with any­body, and then they forecast these rev­enues and (peo­ple’s) spend­ing habits change.”

Clark spec­u­lated that along with the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor, the in­sur­ance in­dus­try might also be hurting as peo­ple could be cut­ting back on the amount of in­sur­ance they are buy­ing.

Kevin Haak­en­son, a co-owner of Bobby’s Place in Moose Jaw, agrees that the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to ap­ply the pro­vin­cial sales tax to restau­rant meals was not well thought out and that the re­cent num­bers re­leased by the gov­ern­ment are proof.

“Ob­vi­ously some of their poli­cies are not work­ing prop­erly,” he said.

Haak­er­son said that since the de­ci­sion was made to ap­ply sales taxes to restau­rant meals, his busi­ness has been down and has not picked up as the hol­i­days are near­ing.

“My sales are still down, they have not re­cov­ered from April,” he said.

Gen­er­ally, around this time of year, Bobby’s sees an in­crease in busi­ness, as peo­ple tend to be out and about more. The bar also gen­er­ally plays host to a va­ri­ety of events, like of­fice Christ­mas par­ties. But ac­cord­ing to Haak­en­son, this is not the case this year.

“We’ve had fewer peo­ple ap­proach us about hav­ing Christ­mas par­ties at our place,” he said.

With busi­ness be­ing down right now, Haak­en­son said he is hop­ing that if he doesn’t see a hol­i­day bump that he won’t see a slide come in Jan­uary, as has gen­er­ally been the case in the past. De­spite the drop in sales, his bar is still able to hang in, which he at­tributes to peo­ple in the city mak­ing sure to sup­port lo­cal busi­ness.

“We’re still do­ing (well) … the peo­ple of Moose Jaw have sup­ported us, and I ap­pre­ci­ate that,” he said.

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